Friendship. We all need it. God created us for companionship but finding supportive friends can be difficult.
This isn’t a new problem. Look at Job.
“Now when Job’s three friends heard of all this evil that was come upon him, they came…to mourn with him and to comfort him” (Job 2:11).
And Job was at a low spot in his life. He needed his friends.
He had lost everything in a single day. All of his wealth, every business asset, and most horribly, his ten children – gone. His wife cursed him. As if that wasn’t heartbreaking enough, Job was afflicted from the top of his head to the soles of his feet with grievous sores.
It Starts out Well
When Job’s friends approached his house to keep their appointment to mourn with him, they didn’t even recognize Job. More than the hideous sores marred him. Having experienced grief, his eyes were red and swollen with tears, and purple circled beneath them from lack of sleep. Food didn’t interest him, so his clothes hung off his frame.
All three of these men wept at the sight of their friend.
Hearing about someone’s grief is never as potent as seeing it. This is why friends need to be present in troublesome times. Compassion and commiseration lose their power from afar.
In accordance with custom, the men ripped their clothes and sprinkled dust on their heads. This was an outward expression of their mourning.
They sat beside Job in the pile of ashes. No one said a word. Only sniffling and sobbing broke the silence for seven days.
In the face of grief, a true friend knows their presence is what strengthens and comforts. Words are not enough, nor will they ever be.
It Goes Downhill
After this week of solemnness, Job was ready to talk. He spilled his guts before his friends. How he wishes he had never been born. How he longs for God to kill him.
This is grief at its darkest.
What should true friends do in the face of this transparency? Should they weep some more? Offer a hug? Bring over some food?
Again, words will never be enough.
Someone should have told Eliphas that. After Job shared his grief, this oldest of his friends basically told Job, “You’re suffering because you’ve sinned” (Job 4:7).
And what a help that was. Not.
Job tried to defend himself. Then Bildad and Zophar offered up their wise words of compassion. More claims that Job’s suffering was a result of his sinfulness (Job 8:20, 11:4-6).
No matter what Job tried to say in his own defense, his friends weren’t hearing it. Their minds were settled. All this loss and hardship was Job’s fault. If he hadn’t been such a despicable sinner, God would never have judged him this way.
Thanks to their great counseling skills, Job felt even lower. A look at chapter 23 shows Job complaining, even though he admits God can do whatever he wants.
It Ends with Judgment
It’s unclear in the story whether or not Job’s friends were still present when the Lord appeared to him in a whirlwind. In either case, the words God spoke were for Job’s ears alone.
While God didn’t explain the truth of the trials to Job, He did further prove His majesty.
Job was reminded of his humanity and begged for God’s grace.
In Job 42:7, God turns a wrathful tone on Eliphaz. “Ye have not spoken of me the thing that is right, as my servant Job hath.”
In the end, God spoke up on Job’s behalf. The three friends who failed in performing the responsibility of speaking the truth in love had to return to Job in humiliation.
Finally, the friends acted according to God’s command. And Job interceded on their behalf with God.
When a friend is in trouble, we’re only a true friend if we can intercede for them in prayer and extend a helping hand to them. If we speak harsh words, it pushes them further from God and puts us on the wrong side of the Lord’s will.
“A friend loveth at all times” (Proverbs 17:17).
What sort of friend are you? Are you praying for your friends or judging them?
Up Next: What Job Teaches about Suffering